John Richard Wilkinson, 67, a native of Springfield who became Elvis Presley’s rhythm guitar player years after meeting the King at concert at the Shrine Mosque, has died.
Wilkinson died after a long battle with cancer, surrounded by family and friends in Springfield.
According to his obituary, Wilkinson at the age of 10 sneaked into Elvis’dressing room before a show and told Elvis, “you can’t play guitar worth a damn.” Elvis was amused and impressed and predicted they would meet again.
After playing in a high school band called “The Coachmen,” Wilkinson went on to play with such groups as The Kingston Trio, The Goodtime Singers, Greenwood County Singers, and The New Christy Minstrels.
He joined Elvis’ band at Presley’s invitation in 1969, according to the obit. Wilkinson played played more than 1,200 shows as Elvis’ rhythm guitar player, right up until Presley’s death in 1977.
After that he played less music, and made a living in retail and airline services management. A serious stroke in 1989 left him unable to play the guitar. Nevertheless, for several years after that, he traveled the U.S. and Europe, appearing with the old TCB band and others, singing and paying tribute to Elvis.
He is survived by his wife, Terry. Cremation and a private graveside service will be conducted by Gorman-Scharpf. Contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, or the charity of donor’s choice.
Source - News Leader